The Norfok Island Pine is the Ultimate Christmas Tree

by | Dec 13, 2015 | 4 comments

Who could imagine a 200-foot tree growing from those little evergreens seen during the holiday season in many garden centers and big-box stores? Many people use the Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) like a Christmas tree.

Decorated Norfolk pine

Norfolk Pine decorated as a Christmas tree

My Norfolk pine

I have one that is getting very large, which came from my Grandmother’s funeral in 2003. It actually should be much larger, but it was living with my brother for a long time. He gave it to me and the soil it was growing in was appalling! I asked him what kind of soil he used and he said, “I went out into the field behind our house and got a shovel full.” (He lives in a rural area) Soil is a subject for another post, but let’s just say, garden soil or field soil, as the case may be, is NOT the best soil for houseplants. It was as hard as cement and I literally had to chip it off the roots. I planted it in nice custom-mixed soil, mixed by yours truly, and it is finally taking off.

Norfolk pines in their natural habitat

Norfolk Island Pines (Araucaria heterophylla) originally come from a small island called -wait for it…..Norfolk Island, off the coast of Australia. (Map courtesy of ) They were discovered there in the 1700’s by explorer, Captain James Cook. They can grow outside in Zones 10-11, but anywhere else in the United States, it is a houseplant. Though it has the name pine, it isn’t a true pine but is in the family Araucariaceae.

In their native habitat, they can grow over 200′ tall, whereas in the house it will get 3-10′ tall-thank goodness! Norfolk Island Pines need bright light and good humidity. If the humidity is too low or the plant gets too dry, it will lose its lower branches. It may also get spider mites if the humidity is too low. Keeping it on a pebble tray is the best way to raise the humidity around the plant.

Find them at holiday time

These plants are always sold at Christmas, either plain, (my preference) or with glitter and ornaments. I am not an advocate of spraying live plants with glitter or paint or anything for that matter. (This includes plant shine!)

Seen at a big box store covered in glitter with ornaments

Seen at a big box store covered in glitter with ornaments

Interiorscape Plants

Norfolk Pines are also used in interior landscapes, such as the atrium at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield, MI. Of course, plants are known to be therapy, (read about that here.) so placing them in a hospital makes perfect sense. Many of the patient rooms overlook the atrium. Seeing these plants would make me feel better, for sure!

The Perfect Gift

These trees are quite often used for Christmas trees, but be gentle when decorating, as they can break easily, and use lights that won’t damage/burn the foliage. This would make a perfect gift for someone homebound,  in the hospital or nursing home at Christmas time.

Very large Norfolk Island Pine covered with light for the holidays.

Very large Norfolk Island Pine covered with light for the holidays.

I have also seen them in churches and in local businesses. They develop a distinct shape as they age.

chicago garden show 022



A Norfolk Island Pine with an under planting of

A Norfolk Island Pine with an under planting of Clivia

Miniature Garden Tree

While attending the Chicago Flower Show last spring, I saw many Norfolk Island Pines used in fairy garden settings. A small Norfolk pine works great as a small evergreen in these minute gardens.


The tree we received from my Grandmother's funeral.

The tree we received from my Grandmother’s funeral.

If you receive one of these wonderful evergreens this holiday season, don’t throw it away after the lights and tinsel are a dim memory. This tree makes a wonderful houseplant, and if need be, a cute Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas!

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Leave a Comment


  1. Angela

    I just received one for the holidays!!:)
    Its in a small 4″ pot but tall…
    When do you suggest I should repot?
    Thanks !
    Happy Holidays to all!


      I only re-pot or up pot my houseplants in the Spring. At that time, they are starting to wake up from winter and put out new growth. I would only go up one size pot, such as a 5-6″ pot at this time, unless it is really rootbound and will have plenty of light to put out new growth.

  2. Raymond

    Cool article. I need some advice, I recently got one of these and placed it about 3’ away from a cordyline that, one week later, I realized had a pretty extreme spider mite infestation. Now I’m worried the tree cought the bugs though there is no sign yet. Any preventive measures you recommend? I love this tree and don’t want it to get infested.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Spider mites like dry plants. So keep the humidity up around your plants with a humidifier or a pebble tray. Take your plants to the shower and really hose them down and that should help with the mites. Look at a product called neem oil. It is quite safe and is an insecticide, miticide, and fungicide all in one. It is a natural product derived from the neem tree.


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